Posts Tagged ‘blueberry’

Blueberry Muffins

First up in the 88th episode of Good Eats are blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins were something we ate a lot growing up. My mom would make a batch of blueberry muffins, giving them to us for breakfast before school. She would take day-old muffins, split them in half, butter them, and place them under the broiler until the butter had melted and the muffin edges were slightly crispy. Gosh, they were good. I really should make blueberry muffins more often.

Alton’s recipe begins with preheating the oven to 380 degrees. While the oven preheats, combine 1 C plain yogurt, 1/2 C vegetable oil, 1 C sugar, and 1 egg in a bowl, whisking to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together 12 1/2 ounces cake flour, a pinch of Kosher salt, 2 t baking powder, and 1 t baking soda.

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Wet and dry muffin mixtures.

For his muffins, Alton recommends using fresh blueberries when possible, but if you must use frozen berries, do not thaw them before adding them to your batter. Either way, toss 1 1/2 C blueberries with 1 T of your dry ingredient mixture; this will serve to keep the berries from sinking to the bottom of your muffins.

Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, mixing with a spatula for a long count of 10.

Add your berries, reserving 1/2 C for later. Mix the berries into the batter, but only for a count of three, as you do not want to over-mix the batter.

Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray and use a #20 ice cream scoop to dispense batter into each cup; a #20 scoop is equal to 0.2 C, so I used a ladle that was about this size.

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Sprayed muffin cups filled with batter.

Remember those reserved berries? Sprinkle them onto the tops of the muffins, lightly pressing them into the batter.

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Reserved berries sprinkled over muffins.

Place your muffins in your preheated oven, but increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Alton explained in the episode that increasing the oven temperature when you place the muffins in the oven gives a guaranteed burst of heat, which will help to ensure a good rise. Bake the muffins for 12 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake them for an additional 8-13 minutes. The muffins are done when they are golden brown and they pass the toothpick test.

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Muffins, straight out of the oven.

Flip your muffins onto a tea towel, letting them cool upside down.

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Muffins, inverted onto a tea towel to cool.

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Blueberry muffins, split, buttered, and broiled.

I had to test one of the muffins while it was still warm, splitting and buttering it. These blueberry muffins are outstanding. Not only are they littered with blueberries, but their flavor and texture is spot-on too. The yogurt in the muffin batter gives the muffins a faint tartness, so they are not overly sweet, and they are tender on the inside while being slightly crispy and golden on the outside. Good stuff. This blueberry muffin recipe is hard to beat.

English Muffins

It was probably about 15 years ago when I first saw this episode of Good Eats. I remember being super intrigued by Alton’s English muffin recipe, deciding to try it for myself. At the time, I was at my parents’ house, and all I can remember is that my English muffins were ugly… really ugly. They tasted fine, but they were hideous, and I never tried them again – until now.

To make English muffins, dissolve 1/8 t sugar in 1/3 C warm water. Sprinkle on 1 package of yeast, and set the bowl aside for about five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the wet ingredients:  1 C very hot water, 1 T shortening, 1 T sugar, 1/2 t salt, and 1/2 C milk powder.

Add the yeast mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring to combine.

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Yeast added to wet ingredients.

Place 2 C of sifted flour in a bowl, making a well in the center, and pour in the wet ingredients.

Stir the dough with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Set the dough aside for 30 minutes.

Alton used an electric griddle to cook his English muffins. We do not have an electric griddle per se, but we do have a Panini press that has smooth plates. You want your cooking surface to heat to 300 degrees (an infrared thermometer is helpful for checking this, especially if you don’t have a griddle).

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Griddle, preheated to 300 degrees.

Now, you will need some metal rings to serve as molds for your English muffins, and Alton used four tuna cans from which he had removed the tops and bottoms. I, however, discovered that tuna cans no longer seem to have removable bottoms; unfortunately, I did not come to this realization until I had purchased and opened four cans of tuna. Oops! I wound up purchasing a set of four rings on Amazon, which were not expensive. Once your cooking surface has sufficiently preheated, place your rings on the griddle, spraying them lightly with non-stick spray.

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Rings placed on preheated grill and sprayed with non-stick spray.

Using a #20 scoop, place two scoops of dough into each ring. I used a ladle that was approximately 1/4 C in size.

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English muffin batter added to rings.

Place a sheet pan on top of the rings and let the muffins cook for five minutes.

Using tongs, flip the rings, place the sheet pan on top again, and let the muffins cook on their second sides for five more minutes.

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Flipped muffins after five minutes.

Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool.

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Finished English muffins, cooling on wire rack.

I was pretty happy with how my English muffins turned out, as they at least looked like English muffins this time around. They had the “nooks and crannies” in them that really make an English muffin an English muffin, along with a slightly yeasty flavor.

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English muffin, toasted and buttered.

They toasted up nicely, and were a perfect breakfast with a pat of butter. Next time around, I will have to plan ahead and use the muffins to make eggs Benedict. Alton’s recipe shows that English muffins are surprisingly easy to make, and they’re pretty tasty too.IMG_4683

I was super stoked to prepare the recipes in the 30th episode of Good Eats. Why, you ask? Though I do love quiche and flan as much as the next girl, I was most excited to make these recipes because I got to use our brand new range for the first time. When we moved into our house, we were greeted with the original, 25-year-old, drop-in Tappan range (I had never even heard of the brand before!). I cook often enough that a range with roll-over numbers (stuck permanently at 4:44), a broken burner, and an oven door that would not shut just was not going to cut it.

The old range. You can't tell in this photo, but the oven light is permanently on since the door won't shut.

The old range. You can’t tell in this photo, but the oven light is permanently on since the door won’t shut.

Old range with a broken front burner.

Old range with a broken front burner.

Ta-da! Enter our new smooth top Samsung electric range.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

We considered putting in gas, but the venting, etc. just wasn’t going to be feasible, and we would have lost cabinet space. So far, we are loving our range!

Refrigerator Pie

The very first thing I cooked in our new oven was Alton’s recipe for Refrigerator Pie, AKA quiche. I had my share of quiche growing up, as it was something my mom made on a fairly regular basis. Alton’s version is particularly easy, in that it uses a frozen crust.

Ingredients:  frozen pie crust, spinach, cream, eggs, cheddar, cubed ham, Kosher salt, nutmeg.

Ingredients: frozen pie crust, spinach, cream, eggs, cheddar, cubed ham, Kosher salt, nutmeg.

To start the recipe, you whisk a cup of cream with two eggs (this is called “Royale”) and you place your frozen crust on a baking sheet (to avoid any spills in the oven).

The Royale.

The Royale.

You sprinkle your choice of toppings over the crust, mixing them with your hands; I opted for spinach, shredded cheddar, and cubed ham since that is what Alton did in the episode.

Spinach on the crust.

Spinach on the crust.

Topped with cheese.

Topped with cheese.

And ham.

And ham.

Ingredients tossed together.

Ingredients tossed together.

To your Royale, add a couple pinches of Kosher salt and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. My whole nutmeg seed decided to take a dive into my Royale, which necessitated fishing it out. Butter fingers!

Nutmeg and salt added to Royale.

Nutmeg and salt added to Royale.

Pour your Royale over your ingredients. The egg will expand when it cooks, so you do not want to fill your crust all the way to the top; I had the perfect amount of liquid for my crust.

Royale poured over toppings.

Royale poured over toppings.

Bake your pie in a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes, or until it is set like Jell-O and no liquid comes out if you poke a small hole with a toothpick. My quiche was done in 37 minutes.

Obligatory dog shot.

Obligatory dog shot.

Baked Refrigerator Pie.

Baked Refrigerator Pie.

Great filling, but needs a better crust!

Great filling, but needs a better crust!

You do not want to overcook this. Ideally, allow the quiche to cool for about 15 minutes before eating. The filling on this quiche was the best I have ever had because it was so much lighter and fluffier than any other quiche I have had. We liked it so much that Ted made one for breakfast a few days later. My one complaint was about the crust, as it wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked. Alton did not mention pre-baking the crust, so I did not pre-bake mine either, and it seemed a little doughy. When Ted made his quiche, he did pre-bake it, but it was not significantly crispier. I did buy a generic brand of pie crust, so maybe a different brand would yield better results. Seeing as we will be making this again for sure, I will have to play with different crusts. The filling, though, is already a winner. I foresee that we will be making this when our refrigerator is poorly stocked but we still want to eat something good! Seriously, best quiche filling ever.

Flandango

And what was the second thing I made with our new range? Alton’s flan, of course. For some reason, my only childhood association with flan is of an unpleasantly jiggly, overly gelatinized, dessert served at bad Mexican restaurants. I have a distinct memory of my family going to a Mexican restaurant with another family, and at the end of the meal the other family got super excited to order flan. I had no idea what flan was, but their enthusiasm made me think I SHOULD know what flan was, so I feigned excitement and ordered a flan. I should have gone with the churros. Creme brulee has since been my custard of choice.

Still, I was excited to make Alton’s flan, as I figured that pretty much everything Alton made on Good Eats was fantastic, so this was likely to be my best opportunity to have, and make, a good flan.

Flan ingredients:  whole milk, half and half, vanilla, sugar, eggs, blueberry jam, and fat-free (doh!) caramel.

Flan ingredients: whole milk, half and half, vanilla, sugar, eggs, blueberry jam, and fat-free (doh!) caramel.

For this recipe, combine whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat at a bare simmer.

Whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan.

Whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan.

Milk mixture at a bare simmer.

Milk mixture at a bare simmer.

Meanwhile, add 1-2 T of your chosen topping(s) to eight ramekins, and place them in a roasting pan that allows an inch between them.

Caramel and blueberry jam in ramekins.

Caramel and blueberry jam in ramekins.

Ramekins in roasting pan.

Ramekins in roasting pan.

For my toppings, I chose caramel ice cream topping and Alton’s blueberry jam I wrote about here. Unfortunately, I made the horrible error of accidentally purchasing fat-free caramel. Yuck! I did not have time to make a homemade caramel, so I had to go with the fat-free junk and hope for the best. In retrospect, I probably should have opted for plain flan. In a bowl, whisk three eggs and three egg yolks until they are thick and light.

Three eggs and three yolks.

Three eggs and three yolks.

Eggs and yolks whipped until light and thickened.

Eggs and yolks whipped until light and thickened.

Slowly drizzle about a quarter of the cream mixture into the eggs, whisking. The key here is to go slowly. Once the eggs are tempered, add the egg mixture back to the cream, whisking again.

Tempered eggs.

Tempered eggs.

Tempered egg mixture added back to milk mixture.

Tempered egg mixture added back to milk mixture.

Strain the custard to get rid of any curdled egg or any chalazae (the tough “strings” in eggs that keep the yolks suspended).

Strainer to remove any lumps.

Strainer to remove any lumps.

Strained custard.

Strained custard.

Pour the custard into the ramekins and place the roasting pan in the middle of a 350 degree oven.

Custard in ramekins. I wonder which ones are blueberry? So much for mystery.

Custard in ramekins. I wonder which ones are blueberry? So much for mystery.

2-20-15 030 Pour boiling water into the roasting pan, bringing it up almost to the level of the custard in the ramekins.

Water up to almost custard level.

Water up to almost custard level.

Bake for 25-40 minutes. Alton explains in the episode that the slower you cook the custard, the lower its setting temperature will be. My flans were done right at 40 minutes. They are done when they wobble and a pairing knife comes out cleanly. Remove them from the water bath with tongs, allow them to cool to room temperature, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them.

Flans after 40 minutes in the oven.

Flans after 40 minutes in the oven.

Completed flan.

Completed flan.

2-20-15 034 When ready to serve, you can eat them straight from the ramekins, or you can run a pairing knife around the outside and invert them onto a plate.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

We ate the flans for dessert, and shared a couple with my parents. The caramel topping was indeed unfortunate, but the custard was really good. The only flan I have had previously has had caramel topping, so the blueberry topping was very different. My mom commented that the blueberry flavor really surprised her, as she too envisions flan with caramel. Though I would still opt for creme brulee, Alton has redeemed flan for me. The texture was smooth and silky, and the flavor was creamy, sweet, and slightly eggy. There is a pretty good chance that I will make this again in the future, though I will make Alton’s caramel sauce next time. If you are a flan fan, you likely would think this recipe is flantastic! Okay, that was bad.

Spiced Blueberry Jammin’

Following a Thanksgiving hiatus, I am back with the 23rd episode of Good Eats. In this episode, Alton makes only one recipe, which is for Spiced Blueberry Jam. I have made freezer jam before, but my only other canning experience has been the dill pickles my mom and I have made for the past eight to 10 years. To start Alton’s jam, you need to begin by washing all of your canning equipment, which I did by hand.

Jars, bands, funnel, masher, and ladle after hand washing.

Jars, bands, funnel, masher, and ladle after hand washing.

After a good wash, it is critical to sanitize your equipment, which Alton did by boiling everything (except the jar lids) for 10 minutes. The jar lids can be added to the pot after it has been removed from the heat for ~10 minutes, as boiling the lids could destroy their sealing compound. I could not find a good pan to boil all of my equipment, so I opted to run everything through the dishwasher instead; this included my jars, bands for the lids, a canning funnel, and a ladle. While your equipment is sanitizing, you can begin making your jam by combining frozen blueberries, a packet of dry pectin, cinnamon, ground star anise, fresh nutmeg, lemon juice, and cider vinegar.

Jam ingredients:  frozen blueberries, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, pectin, lemon juice, and cider vinegar.

Jam ingredients: frozen blueberries, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, pectin, lemon juice, and cider vinegar.

Whole star anise.

Whole star anise.

Ground star anise.

Ground star anise.

Now, there are a couple of differences between the recipe prepared in the episode and the online recipe. In the episode, Alton uses 1/4 t of cinnamon and 4 T of cider vinegar, while the online recipe calls for no cinnamon and 5 T of cider vinegar. I made the recipe as Alton did in the show. Once everything is combined in the saucepan, you want to bring it to a boil over low heat, as you do not want your frozen fruit to burn.

Blueberries and pectin.

Blueberries and pectin.

Blueberries, pectin, and spices.

Blueberries, pectin, and spices.

All ingredients in the pan.

All ingredients in the pan.

Heating over low heat.

Heating over low heat.

Once juice starts forming on the bottom of the pan, you can increase the heat and began to mash the blueberries with a hand masher. You want to boil the mixture for about five minutes, continuing to mash the berries.

Juice starting to form at bottom of pan.

Juice starting to form at bottom of pan.

Bringing the mixture to a boil.

Bringing the mixture to a boil.

Mashing the blueberries.

Mashing the blueberries.

At this time, you add your sugar and some water to compensate for evaporation. Sugar serves to make jam spreadable, helps to set the pectin, and it takes up excess water. After adding the sugar and water, you increase the heat to medium-high and stir until your jam reaches a boil. Boil the jam for one minute and you are done.

Adding sugar and water.

Adding sugar and water.

Jam after boiling for a final minute.

Jam after boiling for a final minute.

At this point, you could put lids on the jars and store them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. I opted to process my jars for longer shelf life, and because it is what Alton does in the episode. While your jars are still hot, you want to fill them with the hot jam mixture, using a ladle and your funnel.

Filling my jars.

Filling my jars.

At this time, I put my jar lids in a bowl with some hot (not boiling) water.

Jar lids in hot water.

Jar lids in hot water.

You only want to fill your jars to the bottom of the funnel. I had just about the perfect amount of jam for six half-pint jars.

Filled jars.

Filled jars.

Once filled, wipe the rims of your jars with a damp paper towel and add the lids. Alton used a magnetic wand to put his lids on, but I simply used a fork and my fingers, avoiding touching the bottoms of the lids. Screw the bands on your jars, but only finger-tight. Alton processed his jars by putting them in a water bath. I, on the other hand, borrowed my mom’s steam canner, which is what she and I have always used for our pickles and it has always served us very well. Basically, it is an aluminum dome that sits over a water bath. As the water boils, steam comes up through holes between the bases of the jars.

Steam canner base.

Steam canner base.

Jars in the steam canner.

Jars in the steam canner.

Lid on for processing.

Lid on for processing.

Watching for steam to come from the vents.

Watching for steam to come from the vents.

After 10 minutes of processing (processing times depend on the elevation where you live), I pulled my jars from the canner. While my mom and I have occasionally had a jar that has failed to seal, all of my jam lids made a happy popping sound immediately when removed from the canner.

Jars after 10 minutes of processing.

Jars after 10 minutes of processing.

Fresh (and hot!) from the canner.

Fresh (and hot!) from the canner.

You want to let your jars cool completely, and Alton recommends storing them without their bands. Why? The bands tend to rust and it is easier to tell if a jar is spoiled when the lid is not held in place by a band. Ted and I had the jam yesterday morning for breakfast, spreading it on toast.

Nice color to the jam.

Nice color to the jam.

Completed jam.

Completed jam.

Jam on toast.

Jam on toast.

The blueberry flavor is super intense and you would not guess that the jam is made of frozen fruit. We both thought the anise flavor paired really well with the blueberries, and Ted described the jam overall as “spicy.” While the nutmeg and cinnamon are fairly subtle, the anise flavor is obvious, though not overpowering. This jam is a little on the looser side, but I would not call it runny or thin, and it does have a beautiful purple color. Overall, I think it is really good jam, and the spice notes are a surprise, as they are more intense than in most jam. Jam is so easy to make, and this one could make a nice holiday gift.